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AT&T bolsters 4G network plans with $1.9B spectrum purchase

AT&T, the exclusive U.S. wireless carrier of Apple's iPhone, announced on Monday that it has agreed to purchase $1.925 billion worth of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm for its forthcoming 4G network.

AT&T has agreed to purchase spectrum licenses from Qualcomm in the lower 700 MHz frequency band. The $1.925 acquisition is said to bolster AT&T's ability to provide an advanced 4G mobile broadband service "in the years ahead," the company said in a press release.

The spectrum being sold to AT&T is currently licensed to FLO TV, but that agreement with Qualcomm is expected to be shut down in March 2011.

The available spectrum acquired by AT&T covers more than 300 million people total nationwide. 12 MHz of lower 700 MHz D and E block spectrum is accessible by more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The remaining 6 Mhz of lower 700 MHz D block spectrum covers more than 230 million people.

AT&T said it intends to deploy the spectrum as "supplemental downlink" once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed. AT&T and Qualcomm anticipate they will close on the sale in the second half of 2011.

While AT&T is still building its own 4G network, expected to launch in mid-2011, the company was recently beaten to the punch by its chief rival. Verizon's 4G long-term evolution network debuted earlier this month, offering 10 times faster download speeds in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T will partner with Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson to build out its LTE network, which will deliver higher broadband throughput and lower latency than the company's existing 3G network. But even before AT&T's 4G launches, the company has touted that its existing 3G network is 20 to 60 percent faster than its competitors.

In August, AppleInsider revealed that Qualcomm was looking to hire an "iPhone Developer Guru" for a "secret" project. The company is also rumored to be the supplier of CDMA chips for a rumored impending Verizon iPhone launch.